Snowmobile Mows Down Iditarod Dogs; Judge Calls It Terrorism

Nancy Bailey

The Iditarod sled dog race made news in the worst possible way around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, when a drunk driver on a snow machine attacked two teams on the trail. Snowmobile driver 27-year-old Arnold Demoski told the Alaska Dispatch News he was "blackout drunk" at the time of the incident. His sled plowed into the teams of Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King as they were traveling to the Yukon River checkpoint of Nulato, about 580 miles into the race. Nash, a 4-year-old dog on King's team was killed, and two other dogs were injured.

— The Associated Press (@AP) March 13, 2016

There are other hazards, too. Wolves frequent the wild spaces in Alaska. But probably the biggest, natural hazard facing mushers is moose. The world's most famous female musher, Susan Butcher, had to pull from the race in 1985, after a moose attacked her team. For twenty minutes, it charged and trampled her dogs, killing two of them and injuring 13 others. Finally, the musher following Butcher came along and shot the moose.

"Dorado was scheduled to fly back to Anchorage with a group of other dropped dogs, but high winds and blowing snow grounded commercial flights and more than 130 dogs remained in the checkpoint for more than three days. The majority of the dogs were moved inside, but Dorado was among 30 that were not. On the morning of March 15th, Dorado was found buried in drifted snow. Preliminary necropsy results show the dog died from asphyxiation."

In a story by the StarTribune, a team from Finland Minnesota was struck by a snowmobile on the Yukon River in the 2008 Iditarod. The impact killed Jennifer Freking's three-year-old dog Lorne, and injured a second dog named Aries. Freking's sister, Cindy Elkins, told the StarTribune that Freking had heard the snowmobile coming for quite some time, but despite the musher's head lamps, the driver didn't slow down.

"It's actually not that unusual. Dog teams all over the nation live in fear of snowmobilers. There have been many instances of snowmobiles killing and injuring sled dog teams."

— PETA (@peta) March 12, 2016

USA Today sportswriter Jon Saraceno dubbed the race the "Ihurtadog."

UPDATE Tuesday March 15:

According to Fox News, Dallas Seavey won his third straight Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race today. Seavey completed the race in a race in a record time of 8 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes, 16 seconds. He arrived in Nome at 2:20 a.m this morning.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, bail of $50,000 was set for Arnold Dumoski, the 26-year-old man who smashed into two sled dog teams, killing one dog and injuring four others.

Magistrate Romano DiBenedetto, a former prosecutor, did not take the 12 criminal charges lightly.

"If these allegations are proven to a jury, it could amount to be an act of terrorism. If the state had asked for $500,000, I probably would have granted it."

When Demoski collided with King's team, he was going approximately 100 miles per hour, the report said. He killed one dog and injured four others, one critically, before driving off.

If Demoski's bail is made, prosecutor Bill Spiers is insisting that one condition be that he is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle.

"I don't want him to drive anything at all—not even a scooter."

[Image via Matt Cooper/Shutterstock]